Libraries, Presentations, Technology, Video Games

Pittsburgh Retro Gaming Convention 2018


I’m happy to share that I’ll be speaking at the 2018 Pittsburgh Retro Gaming Convention in Pittsburgh, PA on April 21, 2018 this year. Video games have always been a big part of who I am, and I’ve always loved bringing them into public libraries so this presentation will be a neat marriage of two things I really love. If you’re attending this convention, say hello and let’s chat about video games and libraries!

Here is a description of my presentation:
If you’re reading this, chances are that you are attending the Pittsburgh Retro Gaming Convention, an event that brings the community of video game lovers together. You know what else brings community together? Libraries! The days of the old, quiet, and musty library are gone. Nowadays, libraries are vibrant community centers, full of life, all kinds of literature, and events for all ages. And guess what else? They have video games too! (well, at least the really good ones do). In this presentation, Librarian Justin Hoenke will share his experience about bringing video games into libraries. You’ll learn about how he created video game collections in public libraries all over the country and also how he created events that centered around gaming for all ages at the library. Gamers who are looking to take video games out into the community and do some community building should attend this event.

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3D printing, Libraries

IMLS Supporting Making in Museum and Library Conversation

For the next two days, I’m in Pittsburgh, PA attending the Supporting Making in Museum and Library conversation being held at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. I’m really enjoying everything that’s being shared and want to share that with you! Below you will find my Google Doc which I’ll be constantly updating throughout the event.  You can also follow along at the #makingandlearning hashtag

Libraries, Three Things, Video Games

THREE THINGS (1.26.15)

1. I am currently in the Atlanta airport on my way to Pittsburgh, PA for my first ever “I’m doing the business travel thing but I’m business traveling to my hometown” experience! I will be taking part in the Supporting Making in Museum and Library meeting happening in Pittsburgh, PA.  I am honored to be a part of this! Late last year, I met Peter Wardrip & Lisa Brahms from the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and gave them a tour of the 2nd and 4th Floor at the Chattanooga Public Library. It was great to share ideas with them back then and I am looking forward to sharing more with them and many others over the next few days.  The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh was one of my big inspirations when I started on the 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library. It’s neat that I get the chance to go back to that same place and learn and share more ideas.  Here are some photos I took the last time I was there.


The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh in cooperation with the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) have launched a field-wide initiative to better understand, advance, support, and connect makerspaces in museums and libraries. This project, in partnership with Maker Education Initiative, Chicago Public Library, the Exploratorium and North Carolina State University Library is holding a convening to advance our efforts in supporting learning in these space and programs.

2. I can’t wait till Megan Emery blogs more about her ideas on libraries, programming, parallel programming, volunteers, and more.  I guess this is kind of my nudge to get her to write about those things!  Ha!  Seriously though, Megan is (IMHO) doing the best work in public libraries at this moment.  From Camp EtsyNooga to linking programming between Chattanooga Public Library’s 2nd and 4th Floor to writing a book on library programming, everything Megan is doing is inspiring and community first. Go ahead and think that I’m a bit biased because I work pretty closely with Megan…you’re right, I do work pretty closely with Megan. But read about her programs and ideas and you’ll see what I mean. Go Megan go.


3. I am currently on the sixth dungeon in The Legend of Zelda.  This time around I am playing it on my 3DS in little moments of inspiration. I almost forgot how good this game is.  I find the grinding aspect of the game to be quite rewarding. I haven’t played a game where I need to dedicate a good chunk of my time to getting rupees and preparing for my next adventure in such a long time. If you haven’t played this game in awhile and are looking for something to do, pick up a 3DS and buy it for a few bucks on the Nintendo eShop. You’ll find yourself quite happy!

Family, Libraries

Life and Libraries and 2014

2014 is coming to an end and every blogger and writer out there is going to be writing a year end recap of what’s going on and what to look forward to in 2015. I love these kinds of posts and I usually think about writing my own at the very last minute. But not this year!  I’m gonna get a jump on this thing!


The first half of 2014 was busy. The team at the 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library had a lot of big projects happening. We brought in some big attendance and circulation statistics to the library.  I did quite a bit more traveling than I usually do and spoke to a lot of great librarians. I visited Strathmore Alberta Canada, Baltimore Maryland, New York City, Louisville Kentucky, Nashville Tennessee, Greensboro North Carolina, and San Antonio Texas and had an amazing time learning and sharing with librarians. I found myself kind of tired at the end of it all. Yes, it was all very rewarding but the balance between libraries and general life was a bit off.  I learned about limits and how to take care of myself first and foremost before other things.  A healthy and happy Justin leads to a happy and healthier Justin The Librarian. Everything that we do affects everything else that we do.


In around August I decided to make some changes to achieve more of a balance. I visited family and friends twice in Pittsburgh, PA in August and September.  It was nice to go back there with Haley, Finn, and Aero and be with our extended families and take part in a few weddings.  Seeing the day to day things that happen in life makes you want to chill out and appreciate those things more.  That’s exactly the approach I’ve been taking and it has been wonderful.


Haley and I piddle around in our yard a lot.  We take care of our home, our little slice of urban farm/homestead here in Chattanooga.  Finn, Aero, and I play with Legos and we kick around a soccer ball a lot.  We only go out to eat at a Chinese Buffet because it’s awesome and every other restaurant is average and costs way too much.  We eat a lot of vegetables at home.  We play a lot of Nintendo Wii U and have family movie nights.  We have a really cool dog named Sonic The Border Terrier. I really enjoy watering and taking care of my plants, especially our banana plants.


These are the things I look forward to the most these days.  2013 Justin was a bit different….there was something library related in that end of the year toppermost of the poppermost list. This year, there isn’t. That’s not to say that I’m not into libraries anymore….I am, and I still believe that the public library holds the key to unlocking an amazing future for our communities. It’s just that now, well, I have realized that I don’t need to think about them all of the time.  And I’ve also realized that the less that I think about them, the more focused I am on helping them better serve their community.


So that’s 2014, life, and libraries in a blog post. I look forward to everything in 2015: life, family, friends, libraries, travel, music, video games, food, and sleep.  Things are cool. Things are on the level. Life. I’m just gonna live it.

Libraries, Pittsburgh, PA

MAKESHOP at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh


I was very impressed by the MAKESHOP in the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. It had a great setup that invited all ages to participate.  At one point, my three year old son, myself, and my father were all fiddling around with circuit boards trying to make neat noises come out of the circuits.

None of the projects were too difficult to start or finish which really made it inviting to everyone that entered the space.  The space also had an area reserved for participants that wanted to put a little more effort into a project; they could sign up to work one on one with one of the staff members.

To view more pictures of the MAKESHOP, click here

Libraries, Pittsburgh, PA

Great signage at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh

I really enjoyed my trip to the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh with my family last week.  There was a lot of fun stuff for all ages to experience and enjoy.

One of my favorite things had to be the signage in the museum…it was just so positive, bright, and beautiful!  It really made the experience of being in the building a lot more friendly and inviting.

Here’s a look at more signs at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh

Family, Libraries, Pittsburgh, PA, Travel

Gus and Yia Yia’s

Finn’s first Gus and Yia Yia iceball

One of my favorite things in this world is Gus and Yia Yia’s, an iceball cart in Pittsburgh, PA that I’ve been going to for as long as I can remember.

Some about Gus and Yia Yia’s can be found here but I’ll quickly recap: they’ve been around since 1934  or as they say “since your Dad was a lad” and they make all their own syrups.  Now I know you can’t really go wrong with an iceball, but let me tell you, these are not like any other iceball you’ve ever had.  They are one of the greatest tasting things this world has to offer.

Like I said above, I’ve been visiting Gus and Yia Yia’s with my family since I can remember.  My father, an optician, had always made glasses for Gus and Stella (the Gus and Yia Yia who own and operate the cart).  There were always “oh, this iceball is on us since your Dad makes us great glasses” kind of talk coming from Gus and Stella and looking back I’ve realized that those moments have really had an impact on me.  I realized that life had nothing to do with money/making a profit/whatever.  It was about friendship, community, and connection.  I still take this idea into the teen library today.  If we can work together, we can do awesome things and have an awesome connection.

Pure Gus and Yia Yia iceball syrup. Made by Gus, bottled, and sent to us in Maine.

The next thing that I love about Gus and Yia Yia’s is their iceball syrup.  It’s from a recipe perfected by Gus’ dad in the 1930’s.  Amazing.  Like I said above, it’s not like anything you’ve ever had before.  My favorite flavor is cherry.  One taste of it takes me back to my many childhood trips to the iceball cart.  I instantly remember all of the wonderful times.  I think about that a lot when it comes to the library.  Simple little things matter.  Saying hello to someone that passes by, or telling someone that you dig the Batman shirt they’re wearing goes a long way.  People tend to remember these tiny but important moments.

This could be the first Gus and Yia Yia iceball ever made in Maine.

One of my dreams is to propose this idea to Gus and Stella someday.  When they want to retire, I’d love to buy their business.  I wouldn’t change a thing….sort of.  My brother Brandon could run the iceball cart just where it is in Pittsburgh.  I’d do the same thing with my family here in Portland, ME.  Iceballs, popcorn, and peanuts (these are the three items they sell and yes it’s an odd combo but you have to experience it to see how it all works together).  Cheap, delicious, and for the community.  I think that would be an awesome chapter in my life.

One of the cruelest things my mother (pictured with our son Finn) is text me when she visits Gus and Yia Yia’s, knowing full well that we’re 500 miles away. 🙂

My life wouldn’t be the same without these iceballs.  Thank you to Gus and Stella for making life a bit more awesome.  And thanks for teaching me a thing or two.